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Working with Non-English Co-workers

Smelnick

Creeping On You
V.I.P.
At my work, I work with people where english isn't their first language. Actually everyone I work with directly has english as a second language. Some are more fluent than others however.

One thing I've noticed from working with them is that I have to be very careful to be specific, and speak more slowly. Otherwise its super easy for them to misunderstand me and take something I say the wrong way. Certain english slang doesn't always come across, and sometimes is crucial to understanding my sentence lol.

The other part that gets hard, and tends to be the most frustrating for everyone lol, is that when there's something loud going on and they try to tell me something, because english isn't their natural language, and our mouths are often covered by respirators while spraying the concrete, all I hear is a muffle. Its a muffled statement with an accent so all I hear is just sounds, whereas with a natural english speaker, you can make out things that sound like words you know. So much easier to hear lol. I always tell my co-workers, that if they need to tell me something, they have to pull down their mask so I can at least see their lips. Makes it so much easier lol.

For the most part, everyone I work with speaks really good english. A couple though have such heavy accents, sometimes I have to ask them to repeat things. I always feel a bit bad, but at the same time, it feels silly to feel bad, since its not like I'm being disrespectful or making fun of them. I just didn't hear and am asking for clarification. However after I say 'i'm sorry?' a third time, I can understand them getting frustrated lol.

What about yourselves? Do you work with people where english isn't their first language? What are some of the challenges you face? What methods do you use to cross these gaps? What's your take on the whole thing?
 

Hilander

Free Spirit
Staff member
V.I.P.
I use to have people come in my flea market that spoke only Spanish. It was almost like we were playing charades trying to get our point across to each other. We usually worked it out though. One man started bringing his 4 year old along to translate.lol

I was sitting in a shopping mall in Salt Lake City one time when this older woman sat down beside of me. She barely spoke English, think she was from somewhere in northern or western Europe but we managed to have a nice conversation. Once again a lot of sign language.
 

Bliss

Sally Twit
We have many Polish workers in our warehouse and they struggle to string an English sentence together quite a lot. It only irritates me because they will be asking for my help and I can't often figure out what it is they are trying to say. I never know how to ask them to elaborate without sounding rude. Sometimes having a couple of words out of place can make things so confusing for me.
I usually read the e-mail to my colleagues and see if they can make sense of it. Sometimes it is purely guess work.
 

Bubbles

I ♥ Haters
I don't really mind nor do I find it irritating working with people that are ESL. If I can't understand them, I just say "pardon me" and ask them again. Usually it's not a problem at my work, since we have a pretty diverse staff and lot of people here are bilingual - myself included - so there's always someone around to help out with the translation or whatever.

I've had pretty interesting conversations with people whom I don't even share a language with... since I've been pretty much mistake for just about every ethnicity from Portuguese to Persian and just about everything in between.
 

Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
I won't lie, my experiences with people like this are not very good so far. The only two jobs where I worked with people who did not speak English primarily, people tended to group together and not mingle a whole lot. Then you got the assholes that gossiped and talked shit in their language to each other. I got sick of that shit really fast.
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
I won't lie, my experiences with people like this are not very good so far. The only two jobs where I worked with people who did not speak English primarily, people tended to group together and not mingle a whole lot. Then you got the assholes that gossiped and talked shit in their language to each other. I got sick of that shit really fast.
Well, to be fair those people experience a lot of racism and are usually treated pretty poorly and many come from foreign countries, so it's only natural that they stick together for familiarities sake. Generally they're not going to be very trusting of people who have lived in the US their whole lives and they don't have much in common with.

When I was in law school I was in school with people from all nationalities and even with people from other countries. The natural tendency was for people to associate with people with similar backgrounds and I was no different, even though I made friends from all over. I did however spend more time with people from my part of the state and who also spoke Spanish, and at times we would speak Spanish to each other just because we wanted to keep the conversation private. I see no harm in it since it was a conversation meant only for us anyway. People from other countries would do that on occasion as well and to be honest it never bothered me.
 

Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
Well, to be fair those people experience a lot of racism and are usually treated pretty poorly and many come from foreign countries, so it's only natural that they stick together for familiarities sake. Generally they're not going to be very trusting of people who have lived in the US their whole lives and they don't have much in common with.
Oh I have no problem with that at all, it was the 'secret' trash talking that pissed me off.

I did however spend more time with people from my part of the state and who also spoke Spanish, and at times we would speak Spanish to each other just because we wanted to keep the conversation private. I see no harm in it since it was a conversation meant only for us anyway. People from other countries would do that on occasion as well and to be honest it never bothered me.
Once in awhile is no big deal but it gets really rude really fast when it happens constantly and especially since it would happen almost immediately after a conversation with someone in English.
 

AnitaKnapp

It's not me, it's you.
V.I.P.
There is 1 guy at work that only speaks Spanish, and I have very little contact with him. I didn't know that he didn't know any English until I was talking to him, and he nodded and laughed at something that was more or less just a factual statement.

There is 1 other guy at work that speaks very little English. His name is Hector, and I love talking to him. Sometimes he'll teach me some rudimentary Spanish, and I always try to do a Spanish conversation with him. I fail miserably, and we actually need to do this more often for me to learn anything.

For my first job, I worked at a supermarket on the poor side of town. I had a lot of Hispanic laborers come in all the time. I had so many of them teaching me Spanish that I was getting really good at making small talk. However, that was 13 years ago and I don't remember a thing besides the "como esta?" conversation.
 

dDave

Well-Known Member
V.I.P.
When I worked at Sonic 90% of the people that worked in the back spoke only Spanish. This was kind of annoying for me because my boss was Mexican as well and didn't mind communicating with them in his first language. He didn't understand that those of us he charged with running the place had a serious communication problem.

I didn't mind them as people though, they were a lot of fun and eventually learned to speak broken English. Working with them was just hard at the beginning.

I didn't like it when I would say something and they would start speaking Spanish amongst themselves almost as if they were making fun of me. I sucked at Spanish in HS so I had no hope of understanding the.

Eventually I learned how to screw with them (they were all short and I'm tall, what do you think I did?) and we all got along great. The language barrier was always there though and I always wished that my boss was more understanding of that.
 

idisrsly

I'm serious
V.I.P.
At the hotel I worked at in New Orleans, I worked with a lot of Spanish speaking people. They were all from Central America. Their English was pretty non existent and it was very hard to communicate eith them. But then I did pick up a little Spanish myself, mostly counting. :lol: When I go back I really want to make an effort to learn more Spanish.
 
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